New Rochelle budget proposal calls for 8.9 percent tax hike

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The Journal News
November 10, 2009

Hannan Adely
hadely@lohud.com

NEW ROCHELLE — The city manager is calling for freezing 31 vacant jobs, suspending raises, and delaying equipment spending under his $144 million budget proposal for 2010.

Despite cutting $9 million in spending, the city still plans to raise property taxes 8.9 percent. The increase means taxes for the average home, valued at $700,000, would go up $257.

Like other municipalities, the city has less revenue due to a drop in sales and property tax income and also is seeing an increase in pension costs, said City Manager Charles Strome.

The city would save $3 million by keeping 31 positions vacant. Those include nine positions in the Police Department, eight in the Department of Public Works, seven in the Fire Department, four in administration, and three more in Buildings and Parks and Recreation departments.

New Rochelle fire union president Byron Gray worried about the vacancies, which he said actually amounted to nine firefighters. He said fire department staffing has not kept up with new development in the city.

“We have a lot of high-rise buildings and we just need more men on duty,” Gray said.

The city also expects to save an additional $1 million by planning for 10 to 12 new vacancies next year that will be left unfilled.

City employees who are not under contract in 2010 would not get a raise under the budget proposal. That includes employees in both police unions, who have contracts that expire at the end of the year.

William Odell, president of the New Rochelle Superior Officers Association, would not comment on the salary freeze, saying the union had not reviewed the budget or started negotiations with the city.

Typically, city officials earmark about $2 million for capital projects and equipment, but Strome’s 2010 budget proposal sets aside just $500,000. The city also would draw on $2 million from its surplus funds to balance the budget. Service reductions would include less planned cleanups for sidewalks and catch basins.

Last year, the city adopted a $147 million budget with a 5.6 percent tax increase.

The City Council will hold budget sessions on Nov. 17, 23 and 24 at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 515 North Ave. A public hearing will take place Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. at City Hall.